On What You Can Do


img_4564NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 12

To Patients Wondering What to Do:

Take this Wise Lady’s advice.

I had an inspiring conversation this week, one that lifted me up, which I sorely needed.

This incredible woman grew up in the era before women could have credit cards in their own names, before women could play organized sports, and before spousal rape was finally outlawed.  She survived brain tumor surgery and the death of her son.  She has attained advanced education, acquired innovative skills, built and sold a business.  Throughout it all she seems to have thrived.

I queried her response to adversity.  Was she born wired for resilience?  Did she acquire such effective coping skills simply by experience?  She referenced the teachings of her father.  Through her childhood, she said, he taught her to how to face difficulties.  Before she went off to college her dad had a specific talk with her:  “Here’s how you deal with problems,” he said.  “When faced with a problem, first ask yourself, ‘what can I do?’”  Not what should I do, what do others expect me to do, what would s/he/they do.  “What can I do?”  “If you can’t figure it out right away, stop.  Go outside, take a walk.  Come back and ask again, ‘What can I do?’”

Wise Lady said this one strategy got her through myriad struggles and crises in life, and she taught it to her kids the way her dad taught her.  But life flung faster, sharper arrows her way, and she had to develop additional coping tactics.  Seeking a path to clarity through the mires of crisis, she began asking herself, “What do I need to get rid of?”  And that has made all the difference since.

I will tell you, Wise Lady has a serenity about her countenance that I meet only occasionally anymore.  She has racked miles on her soul, yet I sense no cynicism or regret.  I so want to be like her!

From now on I will ask myself more often,

“What can I do?” and

“What do I need to get rid of?”